Tim Visits Havering Women’s Refuge!

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Since 2010, WaveLength has helped to make some Women’s Aid Centres (WACs) into more homelike places, where people fleeing domestic violence can connect with others, find companionship, and comfort themselves during an incredibly difficult transition. We visited Havering WAC to talk to managers Kirsty and Tilly about our donations of radios for women’s bedrooms and a big communal DVD player.

Havering Women’s Centre

Since 2010, WaveLength has helped to make some Women’s Aid Centres (WACs) into more homelike places, where people fleeing domestic violence can connect with others, find companionship, and comfort themselves during an incredibly difficult transition. We visited Havering WAC to talk to managers Kirsty and Tilly [1] about our donations of radios for women’s bedrooms and a big communal DVD player.

To stop their abusers harming them, women or families are sent to refuges in different counties while they wait to be rehoused by the council or save up for a private rental – processes which take on average one year. Kirsty said, ‘They’re in a new borough where they haven’t got friends, haven’t got family, haven’t got a local connection. They don’t know which bus to get, they don’t know where the shops are.’

Tilly agreed. ‘You’re isolated in your relationship, then the refuge is isolating as well.’

‘Would you let a stranger abuse you 35 times?’

Abuse is controlling and slow. An abuser might start saying, ‘I don’t like you going out with him’ or ‘I don’t like you wearing that,’ until the victim is completely isolated, and feels she has nowhere to go when the abuse becomes physical.

When they come to Havering, Kirsty said, ‘A lot of ladies haven’t even gone to Tesco’s and bought their bread. It can be that mad. Mum’s literally in the house, keeps it clean and tidy, indoors, away from her friend, isolated from friends and family, doesn’t have visitors… And leaving – especially if they’ve been with their partner for a long time – it’s like learning how to live life again.’

It cuts across all cultures, professions and ages. ‘We’ve had vicars’ wives, policemen’s wives. A lady of 101 called up last week, because she’d experienced it in the past, and she needed counselling.’ Despite this, there’s still a perception that domestic abuse happens to ‘other people’ – housing office staff recently assumed a resident in her fifties was enquiring about housing for someone else.

‘Did you see EastEnders last night?’

Residents gather together to watch certain programmes, such as EastEnders, which recently ran a domestic violence storyline, on the communal TV. ‘Everyone thinks other people’s lives are perfect, so when there’s domestic violence things on, we make a point of watching it and having a discussion. It makes you feel normal to feel you’re the same as everyone else. You wouldn’t believe how important it is, talking about it.’

‘I think the DVD player’s going to be a fantastic thing to give our ladies. In the communal area, they can come in and chat with each other, the kids can hang out together, the mums can have a cup of tea… And it’s nice for the mums in the evening when the kids are all in bed and they can relax.’

‘Don’t you have a TV at home?’

When WaveLength delivers the communal DVD player next week, Havering will enjoy ‘cinema nights’ – with popcorn! – at the refuge’s ‘Kid’s Club’.

Tilly said, ‘It’s trying to get away from the stigma when the kids go to school. They’re embarrassed sometimes that they’re in a refuge, but with this we can give them a bit of normality.’

‘For the mums, it’s a bit of an escape from the day, we all need that sometimes. You’ve had a hard day, the children have been hard, and you’re sitting with your own thoughts just going round and round… it’s something to focus on. ‘

 

Sally’s Story: Sally had been with her partner since her teens. It wasn’t until his drive to isolate her – including banning her from speaking to her adult children – had driven her to suicidal thoughts, that a health worker told her she was experiencing domestic abuse. She came to Havering with just two suitcases.

‘It’s surprising how isolated you can be even within your own family.

‘When you come from a home where you’ve had everything, to have nothing is very sobering. To look in a cupboard and to see your own knives and forks and plates… that’s what hit me most, the feeling that it’s not your own.

‘Everything here’s just so different and you just want to feel normal, and being normal is having the TV, the radio, and you just want to feel safe. I didn’t realise I missed the radio so much until I got it. I was awake at three o’clock this morning and had the radio on. It’s a lovely thing to do, you really do make a difference when you do things like that. Music’s such an uplifting thing.

‘I need to make a home somewhere. It’s my space. It’s taking control back – if I don’t want to put the radio on, I don’t have to. If I don’t want to put the telly on, I don’t have to.’

 

Amy’s Story: At the moment, the centre has six children in residence. Four of them are Amy’s.

‘I struggle to keep four kids happy in the flat, and it’s difficult to manage them when I’m doing laundry downstairs. My eldest daughter Lila is thirteen, and the hardest thing she finds is that she can’t have her friends in here, so for her to be able to watch TV, watch a DVD… She comes down here and has her time for herself.

‘When we’re somewhere like this it’s nice to keep the kids in a normal atmosphere, and it gives family time which is important.’

 

After the Refuge

Havering is only the beginning of Sally’s and Amy’s new lives. The refuge supports residents through their transition periods, but they may flounder afterwards.

Sally told us, ‘With lots of other women you all help each other out and don’t have to make any explanations. When you’re back out there’s no TV, no radio, no kids’ club. Up to about three months women still come back because they need that connection.’

Most families moving on from the refuge can’t afford their own TVs and radios. Government grants are available; but can take months to come through. That’s why WaveLength is considering loaning TVs, through the Women’s Centres, to people like Sally, Amy and Lila when they’re ready to move on, until they get back on their feet.

What do you think? Are TV loans a good idea? Let us know how you feel about our initiatives with WACs by dropping a line to ed@wavelength.org.uk, Tweeting us at @WaveLengthHelp, or writing on our Facebook wall!

 

 

 

 

[1] All names in this piece have been changed


Tim’s blog: Scientists Say Loneliness Hurts Physical Health

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA‘I just had to share these moving words from a researcher from Ohio State University, Dr Lisa Jaremka, which were quoted today in a BBC article pointing out that loneliness is damaging to physical as well as mental health.

‘Dr Jaremka said, “It was a struggle for a long time for physicians to recognise the importance of loneliness in health. We now know how important it is to understand patients’ social worlds. We need to find ways to help lonely people.

‘”Unfortunately we can’t tell anyone to go out and find someone to love you. We need to create support networks.”

‘Moving words from a doctor currently researching levels of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’, in people who are lonely and who have good support networks. Her thesis, and that of other doctors working at the University of Chicago and Ohio State University, is that social isolation leads to changes in the immune system. This causes a dangerous boost in cortisol production, and a condition called chronic inflammation which shortens life.

‘We’ve already known since 2006 that women who see few friends and family are up to five times more likely to die from breast cancer than women with good support networks. This is sobering news, but something that WaveLength and many others working with vulnerable people have long suspected. We hope that we can help in a small way with our TVs and radios.

‘Dr Jaremka said, “Being lonely means not feeling connected or cared for, it’s not about being physically alone.” Of course, a TV or radio can’t care for someone, but it can keep them connected – and bring a little comfort and companionship along too.

’This new research came to me at a time when I’m campaigning to make sure that vulnerable people in circumstances conducive to loneliness and isolation keep their access to radio. In the event of a radio switch to digital, we don’t want people who are homeless, fleeing domestic violence, leaving care, mentally ill or learning disabled to be left behind as they were by the inadequate digital TV switchover help scheme. Because loneliness is dangerous, both mentally and physically, and we have a duty to curb it wherever we can.’


WaveLength Teams Up with Storybook Dads and Mums

cdsNew project aims to help isolated children through the power of technology.

As you know if you’ve been following WaveLength, people can be isolated in many kinds of ways. Some of our users live with illnesses or disabilities which prevent them from leaving their homes. Some are families fleeing domestic violence to take refuge at Women’s Aid centres. All of them can benefit through the use of technology to stay connected to society and to the people who matter to them.

We’re proud to start 2013 with a new project involving Storybook Dads and Storybook Mums. This inspirational charity lets prisoners record bedtime stories onto MP3s, CDs or DVDs, which their children can listen to or watch. Because not every child’s family can afford a CD player for its Storybooks, WaveLength will provide 100 CD players over the next year for families who otherwise wouldn’t be able listen to their Storybooks at home. These CD players will let children listen to the bedtime stories, educational books and “memory books” sent to them by parents “on the inside”.

We think that the stability and contact which Storybooks provides, for both incarcerated people and their children, is a perfect match with WaveLength’s ethos of using technology to fight loneliness and isolation.

Comfort, contact and companionship. Who needs them more than children separated from their parents?


Access to Elected Office Fund

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATim’s thoughts on the ‘Access to Elected Office’ scheme.

‘I’m concerned today about accessibility for people with all kinds of impairments  as yet another government scheme launches which seems overly tailored to an over-represented need.

‘The ‘Access to Elected Office Fund’ is a much-hailed plan to award money to cover the extra expenses that disabled people incur in running for political office. So far, so good. But only this specific need is targeted, with no considerations to the broader social restrictions that can hold disabled people back from the point when they feel confident considering running as an MP, mayor or councillor.

‘To qualify for this fund, people must prove that they ‘have been involved or interested in civic, community or other relevant activities.’ However, there is no provision in the fund for accessibility expenses incurred while taking part in these activities. Sitting on a parish council, leading a local voluntary group, or campaigning on a grass-roots level all present their own challenges for disabled people, just as much as running for office does. With help only being given to those already able to take an active part in civic leadership, this scheme is not enabling those most hindered by a lack of diversity and accessibility within society. Without help at a local, grass-roots level, only a very small, comparatively high-functioning group of people will be able to make use of funds supporting an election campaign.

‘This scheme seems to be being exclusively advertised online: I’ve seen no TV or radio adverts for it, which are more likely to reach disabled people who do not use the internet. As with the Universal Credit system, which will cut off benefits to anyone incapable of claiming online, this is a example of counter-productive efficiency. A scheme designed to help disabled people has failed in its purpose if it cannot be easily discovered and used by people with varied access needs.

‘These problems often come as a result of having non-disabled people involved in there planning. Well-meaning people often overlook vital needs which make expensive schemes increasingly less efficient. Ironically, these flaws in access schemes aren’t likely to go away until disabled people are fully represented in government and the civil service.’


Giving Evidence on the Small Charities Bill

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATim gives evidence to the House of Lords on the new Small Charities Bill, which aims to give a Git Aid-like supplement to funds from anonymous donors.

‘Yesterday was an exciting day for me. I was invited to give evidence to the House of Lords regarding the Small Charities Bill, which plans to match funds raised through collections among small charities, community or sports groups.

‘Because Gift Aid requires the explicit consent of an identifiable donor, groups or charities which take collections or otherwise raise funds which cannot easily be traced back to the donor are currently missing out on Git Aid’s tax advantages. The new Bill seeks to remove this problem by allowing charities to claim a Gift Aid-like relief from HMRC on these funds (as long as it can be reasonably assumed that each individual donation is not more than £20).

‘So far, so good. And this is an area which definitely needs to be addressed, as more and more donations are collected in groups and often anonymously.

‘However, I have concerns about the criteria applied to the methods of collecting funds in order to be eligible for the relief.

‘The Bill allocates amounts of HMRC relief partly based on the number of buildings that an organisation uses for ‘community activities.’ Now, community activities taking place in a designated building is not the most common form of charitable work. WaveLength does its work in people’s houses, bringing entertainment and connection into their living rooms. Other small charities often work in people’s houses, out of offices, over the phone or online – and there’s no reason why this mentalhealthdrugs.com work is less important or less deserving of support than community meetings. The group which is obviously privileged by the proposed Bill is the religious-charitable sector. Churches and other religious meeting-places (such as temples, synagogues and mosques) both operate from designated buildings, and take informal and anonymous collections on a regular basis.

‘In short, although this Bill is taking the right path by addressing a funding issue which needs updating, the specific provisions regarding community buildings seem biased towards helping a particular group. I believe that to help the third sector move forwards, government needs to look at what is actually being done and how it can be supported. This is particularly important in a climate where charities everywhere are taking advantage of the possibilities (and low overheads) of technology- or office-based solutions – for instance, running volunteering organisations through collaborative software and a central database, rather than paying large rents for buildings in which to host face-to-face meetings. Instead, the Bill seems to have been designed specifically to privilege a certain type of charitable activity.

‘As ever, I’m thrilled to be part of the country’s unique democratic process, and it’s always an exciting day when I walk into the House of Lords or House of Commons! But as the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Charity Finance Group, Charities Aid Foundation and Institute of Fundraising all pointed out on Twitter yesterday, changes need to be made to this Bill before we can be sure that it really works for all small charities.’


WaveLength’s August and September Newsletter!

Hannah CockroftWelcome to WaveLength’s August and September round-up of activity. We’ve had a busy two months providing TVs, radios, DVD players and CD players to the UK’s most isolated and vulnerable people. This month, we’ve helped people who are elderly, chronically ill, disabled or victims of abuse to achieve contact, comfort and companionship. We’re sending over this newsletter to keep you up-to-date as a past supporter. To find out more about what we’ve been up to, visit www.wavelength.org.uk or see our Facebook page or Twitter feed.

During the summer WaveLength watched the Paralympic champions in awe, updated our application form and guidance notes, and secured a Google Grant!

The Paralympics knocked Great Britain off its feet as in the midst of economic uncertainty, the nation came together in awe to watch the incredible athletic feats performed by the likes of  Hannah Cockroft and Mark Colbourne. We’re proud to say that the last of our Olympic/ Paralympic interviews took place with Hannah Cockroft, a lovely and chatty young woman who told us all about breaking world records, winning double-gold, Channel 4’s ‘Superhumans’ campaign, and disability sport in the spotlight.

Though summers are supposed to be slow, there was plenty in the news this month, and Tim has some insightful blog posts up about the treatment of people with mental health difficulties in new London social housing units, Everything Everywhere’s pledge tobring high-speed internet to isolated rural areas, and former disability minister Maria Miller’s appointment as Minister for Culture.

Plus, September saw mainland UK’s last day of analogue TV as the Tyne and Tees region switched off, and WaveLength gladly fielded calls from people needing a little help with the transition. Remember, Northern Ireland is the last region to switch on 10thOctober – if you live in Northern Ireland and still need assistance, check out our factsheet or give us a call.

WaveLength has also recently updated our Application Form and Guidance Notes. There are some new changes to the process here, so if you’re a referee or potential beneficiary, please read the new versions carefully before applying for a free TV or radio.

And what’s next for WaveLength? Our recent trustee meeting discussed just that. With some interesting thoughts sketched out around technologies and partnership projects, expect some exciting new initiatives in the next few months! For all the latest news, Tim’s blog and relevant updates, see our ‘News’ section.

Last but not least, our Fundraiser position is still open, so do send in CVs and recommendations!

At WaveLength, we love to hear from you. So if you want to share news or feedback, do get in touch with a phone call or letter (details at Contact Us), an email toed@wavelength.org.uk, or by searching for ‘WaveLength Charity’ on Facebook, Twitter orPinterest!


One of Britain’s Biggest Inner-City Developments Excludes Mentally Ill

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Independent newspaper has revealed Freedom of Information request results which showing the stringent restrictions on the type of social housing tenants catered for by one of Europe’s biggest inner-city regeneration projects, Kings Cross Central. People with a history of either mental illness, drug or alcohol problems, or rent-related debt are ineligible for the 500 social housing units being built alongside 900 luxury units, the UK headquarters of Google and BNP Paribas, and a massive retail complex.

‘Segregation on the grounds of mental health is completely unacceptable,’ says CEO of Mind, Paul Farmer, upon learning that Camden Council, which operates a large mental hospital very close to Kings Cross Central, won’t allocate a single unit to people with a history of poor mental health.

The consortium behind the £2bn scheme agreed to include social housing as a condition of planning permission for the complex. But in shocking contrast to usual social housing allocation, which gives priority to those in greatest need, large chunks of the population are excluded. In addition, a quota system ensures no more than 20% of Kings Cross Central’s social housing residents are emerging from homeless, no more than 23% are children, and no more than 25% are unemployed. Housing Justice CEO Alison Gelder calls the quotas ‘a crude exercise in social engineering.’

WaveLength CEO, Tim Leech, says: ‘WaveLength works closely with housing associations, and often receives requests for TVs or radios from One Housing Group, the association administering Kings Cross Central’s social housing. Many of them come on behalf of people with poor mental health which leaves them almost completely confined to their homes. WaveLength does all it can for these beneficiaries, and I would question why One Housing and Camden Council are not doing all they can to provide their clients with a safe and comfortable environment to live in.

‘Building rarified communities is never a positive way of going about things. Hot off the heels of the Paralympics, these exclusions are a sad reflection on our society and its inability to accept diversity and people for who they are. Councils and individuals need to appreciate people for who they are, rather than their medical conditions and economic status.

‘One of the most common aggravating factors for mental illness, as WaveLength knows only too well, is isolation. For this reason, a home in a bustling, lively central housing development, well-connected by public transport, would be enormously valuable to many people who are crudely excluded by Kings Cross Central. We know from Crisis’ Skylight centres that relaxing, safe and attractive environments do a lot to improve and maintain mental health. We all need access to good living environments.

‘If, as Camden Council says in its defence, ‘vulnerable residents may have insufficient support to manage in these homes,’ this is a failing in the system, not the people. People on the social housing list are capable of living independently in mainstream housing; otherwise, they would be on the supported housing list. In fact, Kings Cross Central will also hold 55 supported living units providing round-the-clock care for those suffering from severe mental illness or age-related impairments – making it unlikely that, as Camden claims, the location’s social housing units are inaccessible for people classified as needing lesssupport.

‘But if there are dramatic differences to this housing which would cause problems for people with mental health problems, this is the developers’ fault, not the prospective inhabitants’. This exclusion shows how, often, it isn’t a person’s own medical or educational condition which holds them back, but a social system which blocks opportunities.’


Is Everything Everywhere’s 4G Signal the Future for Rural Internet?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEverything Everywhere says its new 4G mobile internet network will reward Ofcom’s permissions by bringing vital connections to rural areas. But can it help the most vulnerable members of our society?

Tim says: ‘As usual with matters to do with the UK’s internet provision, I received the news that mobile network Everything Everywhere is promoting its new 4G internet network as an efficient choice for rural areas ill-served by fixed line broadband, with a mixture of hope and scepticism. Ofcom is allowing Everything Everywhere to re-use its spectrum for ultra-fast mobile internet (4G), which should enable easier digital connection across the UK.

‘Naturally, at Wavelength, we always support the use of cheap, affordable or free technology to ease loneliness and isolation among vulnerable people in the UK. It’s true that many of those living in rural areas are more prone to loneliness and isolation – such as the gentleman living in the Scottish Highlands to whom we donated a digital television, keeping him in touch with the outside world after his house burnt down. The company claims it will cover 98% of the UK population by the end of 2014, and if this does happen, it will clearly be a great benefit for people struggling to connect via fixed broadband.

However, it’s necessary to bear in mind that not all ‘rural areas’ currently suffer from unreliable internet. Everything Everywhere’s press release vaguely named regions such as ‘Wales’ and ‘Cornwall’ as ‘rural areas where there are not many fibre cables’ – something that inhabitants of Cardiff or Penzance would probably deny! Many so-called ‘rural zones’ are actually semi-rural or buffer zones, and covering these does nothing for the isolation of people in the most remote and lonely areas.

But coverage is only one part of accessibility – the other side is cost. While Maria Miller intends to ease planning rules in order to speed up the installation of both mobile and fixed-line broadband, neither government nor big corporations like Everything Everywhere appear to be doing much o ensure that those ‘covered’ by their networks can afford the connection charge. For a Wavelength beneficiary who’d love to be able to email an old friend or research local support groups from her sofa, a 4G charge of up to £40 per month is just as prohibitive as if no network was there at all.

To give an amount, however big or small, to WaveLength and our beneficiaries, just visit http://www.justgiving.com/wavel. Why not follow us on Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook?


Disability Minister Maria Miller Becomes Minister for Culture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis week, former disability minister Maria Miller replaced Jeremy Hunt as Culture Secretary. It’s to be hoped that the experiences of someone who’s spent the last few years representing disabled people, who live with all kinds of access needs, will influence the department to really consider its duty to serve all members of the public.

This week, former disability minister Maria Miller replaced Jeremy Hunt as Culture Secretary. It’s to be hoped that the experiences of someone who’s spent the last few years representing disabled people, who live with all kinds of access needs, will influence the department to really consider its duty to serve all members of the public.

Many exciting cultural events and initiatives put disabled people at the forefront – at the moment, it’s hard to ignore the Paralympics, and we’ve also been spreading the word on Twitter about various disability-focussed art shows and cultural festivals. But of course, WaveLength’s main focus is on the TV and radio world. This part of the Department of Culture’s remit is both vitally important for disabled people, and – surprisingly – an area often overlooked by politicians working in the cultural arena.

Tim says: ‘As a dyslexic person, I find TVs and radios invaluable sources of education and information because they can be enjoyed using solely audio-visual skills. It isn’t only dyslexic people who value radio and TV for this reason: many of WaveLength’s beneficiaries are living with conditions, ranging from dementia to chronic fatigue, that make it hard for them to read and digest the large sections of text found on the internet, books or newspapers. TV and radio are also the perfect alternative for people, like our beneficiaries, who can’t leave the house to attend concerts, films or plays.

For these reasons, Maria Miller will need to bear in mind that a disproportionately large segment of TV and radio users have diverse access needs. Many of these were not catered for in the TV Help Scheme, and need more help from the Department of Culture.

For instance, with the growing number of Alzheimer’s sufferers in the UK, accessible ‘one button’ radios should be a priority. It isn’t difficult to make an easy-to-use radio or TV, but it is unrealistic to expect industry to invest in expensive products which cater for a narrower base of consumers. This is where governments come in; we need to see closer work to make sure that people with a range of specific learning difficulties, cognitive impairments and access needs get the help they need, rather than just the usual suspects. We need equality in provision across impairments and need to end the selectivity that has been taking place.

So what are my hopes for new Culture Secretary Maria Miller? That she works closely with CEG and industry to make sure that the equipment we need gets onto the shelves. That she targets any digital radio switchover Help Scheme to help those who lost out in the TV switchover, with help which is means-tested and available across all impairments. And most of all, that she takes into account the specific learning difficulties and cognitive as well as physical and access needs of the whole country when making decisions about the provision of culture, education, sport and entertainment.


Making Cities and Homes Better For People With Dementia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADementia Challenge – why we should adapt environments for people with dementia.

As scientists eagerly report various breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s research, the reality is that a real dementia cure is still most likely decades away. So I was glad to read about the work of the Dementia Challenge, which aims to bring comprehensive dementia support to 20 cities, towns and villages across the UK by 2015.

While a dementia cure would be fantastic news, it isn’t realistic to plan with that unlikely eventuality in mind, and no cure will abolish all of the memory and orientation problems which are a routine part of ageing for most people. Instead, it’s time to cater to our ageing population by including them fully within the community. A new approach to residential dementia care, showcased in Louis Theroux’s Extreme Love documentary, sees carers ‘playing along’ with memory lapses or difficulties of orientation – for instance, asking a man who thinks he’s still a dentist to examine their teeth, or letting a retired housewife help out with the dusting – with great results.

The Dementia Challenge will help dementia sufferers through many simple measures, including dedicated quiet areas in shops, free lockable covers to power sockets, volunteers orienting sufferers at railway stations, and clear street signs. These are fantastic small steps that can make a real difference by freeing people up to independence in their own homes and towns.

All of WaveLength’s beneficiaries are in some degree restricted to their houses, and in many cases this is because of a mental condition such as dementia which makes it simply too stressful for them to enter an unfamiliar environment. In fact, dementia sufferers represent our fastest-growing area of need. A more welcoming local neighbourhood could make an enormous difference to their lives.

During the TV switchover, WaveLength got a lot of calls from people living with dementia, who found their new flatscreen digital TVs impossible to use. If you live most of your time in a past decade, it’s hard to remember anew each day how to work a remote control. On the other hand, the great One Touch radios make things a lot easier for dementia sufferers, with a single, obvious ‘On/Off’ button. I’m concerned at the step away from intuitiveness and simplicity in TVs and radios, and concerned by the fact that the needs of this rapidly-growing segment of the population are rarely mentioned in terms of ease as use. At this stage, my hope is that by the time a digital radio switchover is necessary, the need to adapt technology and services to the needs of dementia sufferers will be recognised.

The Dementia Challenge seems to be pushing innovative and appropriate solutions to the need to enable a full, varied and enjoyable life for dementia patients. At Wavelength, we can only celebrate anything that helps people live their lives out of the house.


Our Second BT Ambassador Interview – Hannah Cockroft!

Hannah CockroftHannah Cockroft, at only 20 years old, is a double world champion wheelchair racer set to compete in the 100m and 200m events in the Paralympics in September. Hannah is an Ambassador and a BT Storyteller for the Olympic and Paralympic Games – more about these schemes at http://www.btlondon2012.co.uk/index-ambassadors.html.

– What does London 2012 mean for you?

London 2012 was never the target for me; I was taken onto the GB Paralympic team as medal potential for Rio in 2016, so this has all happened so quickly. I guess that with it being a home Games – the Paralympics finally coming home – it is a huge opportunity for me, as disability sport has really been thrown into the spotlight. Oscar Pistorius is breaking down the barrier into able-bodied sport, and the whole world has taken an interest.

For me, I’m feeling the pressure a little bit as everyone is expecting a medal from me. Going into it as double world champion maybe wasn’t the best idea! But at the same time, all my family and a good few of my friends are making the journey down south to watch me in the biggest race of my life. Apart from my Mum, Dad and brothers, no one has ever really come to watch me compete, so to have their support means a lot to me, and I know the opportunity means a lot to everyone too. They’ve all supported me so much over the last four years, so I want it to really be a way to say, “Look, this is where you helped me get to and now I want to do you proud”. It’s just a chance to make a name for myself, and to grow from a junior athlete into a successful senior.

It’s the last time the games are ever going to come to London, as we’ve had them three times now, so it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m so excited to be involved.

– Which modern technologies – television, radio, the internet and social media – do you use?

Recently I’ve done a lot of work with Channel 4 with their ‘Superhumans’ campaign and ‘That Paralympic Show’. I’m featured in two of the Paralympic adverts that Channel 4 released, on the Superhuman billboard, and I also have my own advert coming out closer to the Games! I did some mini-documentaries for Channel 4 and Sainsbury’s last year too and they’re all great fun to be involved with.

As for radio work, I’ve done a few interviews with local stations but nothing too major. When I broke the first world record in the Olympic Stadium though, that was broadcast on every station across the country!

I’m a typical teenager, so I do spend my life on social media websites. I have my fan group on Facebook –“Hannah Lucy Cockroft – Double World Champion” – which was set up by Paralympics GB last year, and I use it to keep my fans up-to-date with my progress and adventures. I’m a Twitter nut so I tweet an awful lot at @HCDream2012. I try to keep a blog, but it’s incredibly back-dated at the moment as my time is taken over by training and competitions. But I do video blogs for Channel 4, which they broadcast on their website at http://paralympics.channel4.com/the-athletes/athleteid=422/index.html.

But really, my main work is still with the newspapers, which is cool. I do a monthly diary with the Guardian and various interviews with other papers, so it’s pretty cool how much stuff comes up when you Google me!

– What do you think people will be feeling as they watch or listen to Olympic coverage?

I hope it makes them feel proud. Proud of their country, proud of what their country has produced! All the athletes are doing incredibly well and they’re making me so proud to be a member of team GB. The national anthem brings tears to my eyes every time it is played – maybe because I want to be in that position so bad, but also maybe because I’m unbelievably patriotic.

– What made you decide to get involved in the Ambassador scheme, and why do you think it’s important?

Sport has played a huge part in my life over the last few years, and I’d like to think that by being an Ambassador I can inspire at least a little tiny part of another person with what I do. Sport is all about the power of communication and passing on what you’ve learnt to other generations to keep the competitions going. Inspiring a generation is what the London Games are all about, and being part of that is proving to be something magical.

– What do you think a big social event like the Olympics & Paralympics means for community and for isolated people within a country?

The great thing about the Games is how it has brought everyone together! I was down in Hyde Park this week and normally, I avoid London – I’m a country girl so the big city scares me – but the atmosphere was electric and everyone had a huge smile on their face and was having fun! There wasn’t the usual arrogance that London sometimes boasts, with everyone getting on with their own thing, not caring about the next person. Everyone was together and enjoying what the country had to offer. This summer has offered lots of opportunities in this way, with the Queen’s Jubilee bringing the street parties and now the Olympics bringing worldwide celebration. It’s brilliant to see how empowering sport can be.

– What do you think your story has to say about the achievements of disabled people, and do you think coverage of the Olympics and Paralympics is an important factor in the portrayal of disabled people?

I’m nothing special, I’ve made the most of the life I was given, found something I enjoy and worked hard at it. Right now, it’s all about equality in life. Being disabled is no reason not to do something, you just have to find your own way of doing it!

I think the Paralympics is still slightly in the shadow of the Olympics, but it’s grown a lot since Beijing and people are starting to see now that we are real athletes. We work just as hard, if not harder, than the able-bodied athletes, and we deserve what we get. I’m incredibly proud to call myself a Paralympian because I’ve worked incredibly hard to get to this point!

– What did it feel like when you knew you’d been selected for the team?

I was always pretty confident that I’d make the team, as in my head, if they didn’t take a double world champion, then pretty much no-one on the team deserved to be selected. It sounds pretty big headed but at least I’m honest! But getting the call is the icing on the cake. It’s the final confirmation that settles your mind – you know that the hard work has all been worth it, but the real hard work starts now.

It was a moment of elation and fear for me. I’m so excited about the Paralmypics but at the same time, so scared!

– What’s your favourite story from the Games so far?

It sound bad to put it this way, but when Jess Ennis won her gold, I was with McFly, my all-time favourite band. So the tears were pouring with Jess, as she is such an incredible athlete, but I also got to meet four of the most gorgeous guys in the world, so that moment will stick with me forever, even if it is for other reasons!

– Do you think coverage of the Olympics and Paralympics is an important factor in the portrayal of disabled people?

I think that the increase in coverage for the Paralympics is brilliant as it is giving a more equal opportunity to the athletes, and allowing us to show the world what their Lottery money is going towards and what we can really do. By forcing us into the public eye, people are definitely starting to accept and respect us more.

– What do you think of modern technology – television, radio and the internet –as a way of avoiding isolation among vulnerable people?

I think modern technology is amazing! I have friends all over the world because of the travelling I do, and it is a brilliant way to keep in contact and stay up to date with their lives. But it is really useful for those who feel isolated or lonely, as there are so many ways to meet people and make friends now. Although you do have to be incredibly careful with who you meet on the internet, there is no reason for people to feel alone anymore as there’s always someone out there feeling exactly the same. With all the new technology around, you can always keep in touch with what is happening in the world.

– What should be the 21st century’s key message on disability?

Oscar Pistorius always answers this one pretty well: “You are not disabled by the disabilities you have. You are able by the abilities you have.” Everyone is good at something, you just have to find that thing.


WaveLength July Newsletter!

thumbnail_05Welcome to WaveLength’s June round-up of activity. WaveLength has had a busy month providing TVs, radios, DVD players and CD players to the UK’s most isolated and vulnerable people. This month, we’ve helped people who are elderly, chronically ill, disabled or victims of abuse to achieve contact, comfort and companionship. To find out more about what we’ve been up to, check out our Facebook page or Twitter feed.

During July WaveLength had bundles of fun at the Proms and Olympics, put out some new helpful factsheets, and welcomed a brand new trustee and Accounts Manager!

Our CEO Tim attended the Classical Music Proms, and other staff watched eagerly on TV – we were all struck by the power which these annual events have to bring people together through broadcast mediums. WaveLength is proud that our free TVs and radios are helping local people, who would find the journey up to London impossible, to enjoy the inspiration of the Proms offer. WaveLength will be running ads in selected Proms programmes, so keep an eye out for them!

As ever, Tim got some great snaps of the events, up now on WaveLength’s Pinterest page!

In July we launched two new factsheets. The ‘Digital Switchover’ factsheet guides beneficiaries through the digital TV switch, with some answers on radio as well. And if beneficiaries’ needs can’t be fully met by WaveLength, the ‘Alternative Services’ factsheet offers a list of alternative places to look for help. If your onhealthy.net organisation isn’t on the list and you think WaveLength beneficiaries could benefit from your work, do get in touch at ed@wavelength.org.uk!

During July, WaveLength hit two great donation landmarks. We were thrilled to accept the proceeds of a Jubilee street party in WaveLength’s home town, Hornchurch (pic here) – and a kind donation on the 18th pushed our JustGiving proceeds over £100! This profile is relatively new, as most of our donations take place offline, so we are really happy to pass this milestone. If you’ve used our JustGiving page, ed@wavelength would love to know how you found it!

Last but by no means least, we’ve welcomed not one, but two new team members! We’re proud to have the BBC’s Lindsey Mack on board as our newest trustee. Lindsey is currently very busy with the new Olympic radio station, BBC 5 Live Olympic Extra, but she’s also helping WaveLength with some exciting new projects. Watch this space! In the office, we’re welcoming a fantastic new Accounts Manager, Eileen Da Silva.

Our Fundraising Manager position is still open, so do send in CVs and recommendations!

At WaveLength, we love to hear from you. So if you want to share news or feedback, do get in touch with a phone call or letter (details at the contact page), an email to ed@wavelength.org.uk, or by searching for ‘WaveLength Charity’ on Facebook, Twitter orPinterest!


Digital Services Factsheet

thumbnail_02WaveLength’s guide to the digital TV switchover – how to cope and how to help others.

Digital Switchover

What is the Digital Switchover?

The UK’s digital switchover was first mooted in 2009, and plans were confirmed in 2005. The first area of the UK to lose its analogue signal and gain digital was Cumbria, in 2007. Since then, the UK has been converting on a region-by-region basis. Currently (June 2012) the only regions still using analogue terrestrial TV and TV stations are Tyne and Tees, and Northern Ireland.

Why digital?

Homes with digital TV receive between 15 and 40 channels, a wider variety than is possible on analogue. If you’re currently using Freeview or another digital service, your reception will probably improve once the switch is complete in your area.

Digital TV uses less broadcast space than analogue signal. This frees up space for wireless broadband, high-definition TV, and other services which are seeing rapidly increasing demand. It also makes digital TV cheaper for broadcasters to produce (although the content is the same).

What help is available?

The national Digital Help Scheme provides advice, installation and 12 months’ aftercare through a helpline for people who:

  • are 75 years old or older
  • have lived in a care home for six months or longer
  • receive Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or Mobility Supplement
  • are registered blind

The service usually costs £40. However, if you meet one of the criteria above, and receive Pension Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Job-Seekers’ Allowance, it is free. Though closed now for regions which have already gone through digital switch, it is still available to people living in Tyne and Tees and Northern Ireland.

For some years, WaveLength has been providing digital equipment where possible as we’ve been aware of the impending loss of analogue signal. If you are a WaveLength beneficiary, or are worried about the effect of the switch on one of our beneficiaries, you can get in contact with WaveLength through phone, email or letter for advice and support. Please note we may not be able to immediately provide new equipment if yours is affected by the digital switch.

How does it work?

From now on, you will need a digibox or digital TV to watch TV. If you already had a digibox before the switch, you will have to retune it. (Generally, it’s a good idea to do this once a month in any case, to achieve the best possible signal – there’s guidance on how to retune here.)

There is no need to buy a new aerial if you already have a digital or cable TV. However, analogue TVs may need replacement aerials in order to pick up the new digital signals. Many people are instead choosing to buy a new digital TV. To find out what you need, you can take a look at these guidelines. However, for more tailored advice, it’s best to consult a local electrician.

Make sure that you choose an electrician who you or someone you trust has used before, or who has a long and reputable track record. For sources of more support and advice, see the help section above.

What about radio?

Along with the switch to digital TV, the government are considering a switch from the analogue (AM/FM) radio spectrum to digital (DAB). This would free up the analogue radio spectrum to be auctioned off to other high-demand telecom services such as mobile phone service and Wi-Fi internet. It could also bring a wider range of stations to listeners.

However, a switch to digital radio would have to follow the precedent set by the digital TV switch – analogue will not be cut off before a certain percentage of the population have already switched to digital of their own accord. The Consumer Expert Group believes that this percentage should be 50%. WaveLength has argued this position while giving evidence in the House of Lords. For more on our opinion, see these blog posts.

Currently, fewer than 20% of radio listeners use digital (DAB) radios, although another 10% or so choose to listen online, through apps, or through their TVs rather than analogue radio. This means that for the time being, you don’t need to worry about a compulsory switch to analogue radio. However, WaveLength does provide digital radios as well as analogue for those who are concerned.

Most digital TVs or TVs using digiboxes also broadcast some radio stations.


Alternative Services Fact Sheet

If WaveLength can’t help out, or if you need a different kind of support, this is a list of alternative services which may be able to assist.

Alternativesthumbnail_03

If you need more support, or different types of help, have a look at these organisations. Some are ‘friends of’ WaveLength whom we often work with. Some are large national charities which have lots of resources for many people, while others offer support to various specific groups such as veterans or people living with certain illnesses or disabilities. Others are advisory services which can help beneficiaries to navigate new technology such as digital TV or the internet.

 

Older People – organisations supporting people over 65

Age UK – Charity offering information and advice for older people

Campaign to End Loneliness – Helps older people to avoid loneliness through a variety of routes

Friends of the Elderly – Financial grants and home support for older people living on low incomes

Independent Age – Charity offering financial and practical support for older people living on low incomes

WRVS – A network of volunteers supporting older people in their homes, and helping them to ‘get out more’

 

Disability Support – organisations supporting people with long-term access needs caused by disability or sickness

Disability Now – Group campaigning for disability and access rights

Disabled Living Foundation – Advice on independent living for people with disabilities or complex access needs

Mind – Grants, services, information and advice for anyone suffering from poor mental health

Scope – Practical services as well as advice, for people living with any kind of disability

Vitalise – Respite care and other services for disabled people, those suffering from Alzheimer’s or other long-term illnesses, and carers

Wirelesses for the Blind – WaveLength’s ‘sister charity’, providing radios and TVs for people suffering from blindness or sight impairment

Note: There are also several smaller charities helping people who live with specific disabilities. If you’d like information on help for a specific disability or illness, get in touch with WaveLength for a recommendation.

 

Technology – help with understanding, choosing and using modern technologies

Ability Net – Advice and equipment recommendations, designed to help people with various access needs to use computers and the internet

AT Dementia – Advice and product suggestions for assistive technology for people with dementia

Bigger Brighter Louder – Review of assistive technologies for older people

Digital Switchover Help Scheme -Government scheme offering advice and support on the digital TV switchover to people who are aged over 75, or who receive benefits based on disability (more information here)

Ricability – Independent consumer advice on digital equipment, for anyone

UK Online Centres – free and subsidised courses on computers, the internet and new technologies

 

Carers – organisations supporting unpaid carers

Carers Direct – NHS information page for unpaid carers

Carers UK – information, advice and campaigning for unpaid carers looking after family or friends

 

Domestic Violence – resources for victims of domestic abuse

Women’s Aid – The UK’s largest charity guiding victims of domestic violence through the practical and advisory services available, including a directory of refuges

 

Financial Support – specifically financial support, for a range of different groups

Buttle UK – Provides practical support and advice for those suffering from child poverty in particular

Elizabeth Finn Care – Grants and other financial support for people living on low incomes

Jewish Care – Health and social care support for Jewish people living in London and the South-East

Percy Bilton Charity – Provides grants for disabled and/ or older people to buy furniture, clothes and technological equipment

SSAFA – Practical and financial assistance for anybody who has ever served in the UK armed forces

St Pancras Rotary Club – WaveLength was founded by the BBC and St Pancras Rotary Club in 1939

Turn2Us – Helps anybody to decipher the UK’s benefits and grants system to maximise their support


Night at the Proms: Bringing National Initiatives to a Local level

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a night at the Proms, Tim muses on ‘bringing entertainment to the people’, the Olympics, and the local impact of national events.

Last night I was lucky enough to enjoy a night out at the Proms, the UK’s outdoor classical music institution. I was glad to get some great pictures of the scene (on WaveLength’s Pinterest page at http://pinterest.com/wavelengthtv/extraordinary-places/)

The Proms were created at a time of great change within the music and entertainment industries. Pushing forth with his mission of ‘bringing music to the people’, pioneer conductor and organiser Sir Henry Wood survived criticism of his arrangements ‘great hits’ of classical music by Debussy, Beethoven, Wagner and Elgar, and his decision to allow people to eat and drink while listening. Later, in the 1930s, the BBC’s coverage of the Proms faced fierce opposition by people who believed that the new technology for recording and replaying music would stifle the musical arts irretrievably.

We know now that these people were wrong. Recorded music – and now recorded film and TV – is an important and valuable part of many people’s lives.

Every year, the Proms bring a national cultural event to local homes, via TV, radio and internet broadcasting. They are is a true reminder of the power of modern media, which let people up and down the country unite in pride, enjoyment and inspiration.

Working at WaveLength, I’m very proud to be part of an organisation that is able to work at a local level, bringing national events to people all across the UK. Our beneficiaries, many of whom are unable to get outside for long enough to attend a busy, outdoor evening event like the Proms, get great value out of experiencing music, film, news, sports and information through our equipment.

The Olympic Torch Relay is another great example of the kind of local/ national participation that WaveLength tries to encourage, where real value is brought to local communities through increased participation in national organisations. We’re also excited about the launch of Radio 5 Live Olympics Extra next week. During the 2.5 Olympic weeks, this special temporary radio station will provide live coverage of events, with a particular focus on those important to Team GB! A guide to accessing Radio 5 Live Olympics Extra can be found on this site at http://wavelength.org.uk/News/988.

This year has been an exceptional one for this kind of participation, uniting the UK through huge events including the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. As we celebrate, I hope that others will join WaveLength in focussing on the local needs of people who can’t travel to Stratford or London Bridge, but who still want to feel involved with both their local communities, and with the nation. We’re proud to be a national charity, working and delivering at a local level.


Information: Extra Olympic Coverage with BBC Radio 5 Live

thumbnail_02A new digital radio station launches for the duration of the Olympic Games, offering full coverage & commentary of live events. Here’s how to find it.

What is BBC Radio 5 Olympics Extra?

For the 2.5 week duration of the Olympics Games, Anna Foster and Ian Payne will offer live coverage and commentary on Olympics events through this temporary, digital-only station. Coverage will be available from 9.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. each weekday, with highlights played overnight.

This Wednesday 25rd July, the temporary digital radio station BBC Radio 5 Live Olympics Extra will launch. In order to catch the launch, you can test-run your connection to the station from Monday 23rd July – a promotional loop will be playing to let you know you’ve found it.

 

How can I find it?

You can listen to this station using a DAB digital radio, online and on selected mobile devices.

On a digital radio, BBC Radio 5 Live Olympics Extra will be found between Radio 5 Live and Radio Sports Extra. It may not appear automatically int eh station list, but when it is found, the display will read ‘BBC R5O’ or ‘BBC R5L Olympics’. If you can’t see the station, you can press your radio’s ‘Auto Tune’ or ‘Auto Scan’ button, and it will find all new stations within a few minutes. If your radio doesn’t have an ‘Auto Tune’ or ‘Auto Scan’ button, press shopantibioticsonline.com ‘Menu’ and rotate the ‘Tune’ button until you see ‘Auto Tune’ in the display. Then select ‘Auto Tune.’

Online, you can listen at www.bbc.co.uk/5liveolympicsextra, or via the RadioPlayer at bbc.co.uk/radioplayer.

If you have an Apple mobile device, or an Android device which includes Flash, you will be able to access BBC Radio 5 Live Olympics Extra at www.bbc.co.uk/5liveolympicsextra.

This station is not available on analogue radio, digital television, or on RIM or non-Flash Android mobile devices.

 

What does this affect?

For the 2.5 week duration of the Olympic Games, Radio 4 LW’s Daily Service will be removed from DAB radio to make room for BBC 5 Live Olympics Extra. Listeners can find the Daily Service on Radio 4 LW on analogue radio, digital television and online. However it is not available on Freeview

 

Other BBC radio Olympic coverage

From 27th July, BBC Radio 5 Live will broadcast from the Olympic Park with the following presenters. This station will cover big sporting moments, including the 100m sprint, and medal ceremonies involving Team GB. It will also carry the Opening and Closing ceremonies, which will not be covered on BBC 5 Live Olympics Extra.

The Paralympic Games run from 29th August to 9thSeptember. These events will be covered by BC Radio 5 Live, with extra commentary on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra.

The BBC has published additional information about Olympic radio coverage in a leaflet available at major retailers.


What’s the Answer for Long-Term Elderly Care?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Dilnot social care white paper on funding elderly care was submitted a year ago, but action on its recommendations was recently put off until the next Government spending review. As controversy surrounds the delay, with some calling for an immediate change in policy and some condemning its recommended ‘death tax’, Tim sees an aspect of the discussion that’s been overlooked…

The controversial delay on the Dilnot social care white paper, and Andrew Lansley’s ‘loan’ proposal for elder care funding, has prompted some thoughts on this country’s confused priorities on elderly care.

While dealing with older people’s happiness and community inclusion, WaveLength sees a continual shift away from care by families. As people move to other cities, or abroad, their older or disabled relatives depend on paid-for care. Current funding shortfalls mean that some of these people are going without – see the 15 minutes of care per client allotted by many agencies. Those who do have family or friends around are often forced to rely too heavily on them, putting these unpaid carers at risk of depression, debilitating stress and isolation themselves.

The short-term answer to this problem may be the one proposed by Dilnot, stripping older and disabled people’s assets to cover costs. Personally, I’ve witnessed one London council put a disabled man’s care on hold when he received a £20,000 injury settlement, only granting financial help again when this asset was stripped and he was left with nothing. But this kind of situation begs the question: why are we paying into a social care system if it’s not going to support us to the ends we need it to? What’s needed here is foresight and long-term thinking; and it seems that the Government is shying away from the dramatic solutions needed to deliver real fairness in funding.

I also feel very strongly that a trick is being missed here, as little focus is put on the question of avoiding costly residential care costs for as long as possible. If decision-makers think long-term, it should be clear that activities such as visits, entertainment and day centres are both more effective and more cost-effective than letting isolated older people decline towards a state of needing far more costly residential care. The strong desire of many people to stay in their own homes may well mean that those homes should be protected from sale when their owners are institutionalised; it should also lead councils to focus on improving the quality of non-residential care.

This week in Oxford, the international ‘What Do We Know About Loneliness?’ conference saw evidence proving without a doubt that isolation and loneliness are bigger killers for elderly people than smoking or alcohol. More and more research like this is coming out, and we need to readdress the assumption that sustaining life in elderly people should always take priority over quality of life. As the conference concluded, we need smarter, more realistic answers on care. Three years ago the international Conference of Television in Spain showed how television, interaction and group contact can Alzheimer’s sufferers in their homes, without (expensive) intervention care, for much longer. Technology such as home environment systems should also be encouraged – whether they’re provided by councils to less well-off older people, or seen as sensible personal investments to prevent oneself or one’s parents from moving out of or selling their homes.

If there’s one thing that the BBC’s ‘When I Get Older’ series shows, it’s the difference between the old age enjoyed by celebrity participants with active careers, large social circles and high mobility, and the old age experienced by people isolated by disability or lack of funds. When one full-time unpaid carer in her seventies was given a night off for a bingo visit, years dropped off her! It would be a shame to overhaul the end-of-life care system without also looking at the way in which care provided in later life can remove the need for intensive residential care.


Wavelength June Newsletter

thumbnail_05It’s taken us a while to get this one up – but our June e-newsletter hit inboxes yesterday! To subscribe, get in touch with ed@wavelength.org.uk

Welcome to WaveLength’s June round-up of activity. WaveLength has had a busy month providing TVs, radios, DVD players and CD players to the UK’s most isolated and vulnerable people. This month, we’ve helped people who are elderly, chronically ill, disabled or victims of abuse to achieve contact, comfort and companionship. We’re sending over this newsletter to keep you up-to-date as a past supporter. To find out more about what we’ve been up to, visit www.wavelength.org.uk or see our Facebook page or Twitter feed. If you’d rather not hear more from us, just reply with the word STOP.

During June WaveLength got excited about the Olympics, Paralympics and Diamond Jubilee, won a prestigious small charity competition in partnership with eBay, and gained a new animal supporter, Chai the cat!

Our latest BT Olympic Storyteller interview is with John Fearon, a professional storyteller from rural Derby. Our CEO Tim Leech also represented WaveLength in the other big event for summer 2012, the Diamond Jubilee. For his pictures of the Royal Family boarding the red-and-gold Royal Barge on the Thames, click here.

Closer to home, what we at WaveLength are really proud of this month is our win in eBay’s Small Charity Competition! During Small Charity Week (11th – 17thJune) eBay ran a Give at Checkout Competition, with five small charities winning an ad placed at checkout for seamless giving – and WaveLength was one of them! Donations at the checkout were made through our seamless JustGiving account, raising much-needed funds for the vulnerable and isolated people WaveLength supports. We also won the chance to auction off a special experience, and chose an ‘experience’ donation – fly fishing on the Granta with Tim. To learn more about running ‘experience’ donations on behalf of WaveLength, get in touch at ed@wavelength.org.uk.

Last, but not at all least, our latest adorable animal supporter, Chai the cat, joined us on Pinterest. Cute Chai keeps his owner company, while WaveLength provides company, comfort and contact for isolated and vulnerable people across the UK. To help WaveLength help people who need a ‘window to the world’, you can donate in a couple of clicks at http://www.justgiving.com/wavel, or use the postal methods outlined in our ‘Make a Donation’ page. 

At WaveLength, we love to hear from you. So if you want to share news or feedback, do get in touch with a phone call or letter (details at www.wavelength.org.uk), an email to ed@wavelength.org.uk, or by searching for ‘WaveLength Charity’ on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest!


Digital Radio – Leaving No-one Behind

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATim blogs about recent developments in the digital radio switchover plan

Today, big news is here for digital radio as the Government, BBC and a fleet of commercial station operators sign a Memorandum of Understanding designed to increase DAB (digital radio) coverage to 90% of the figure for FM radio. This is an agreement to fund five new digital multiplexes across England and Wales, and to use an Ofcom planning group to establish the necessary steps to bring digital radio coverage for the whole UK.

The Memorandum signifies commitment to extending DAB radio with the aim of implementing a switchover – in the model of the digital TV switch – as early as 2013. Tomorrow (Wednesday 4th July) is officially named Digital Day, and sees the launch of a new digital signal transmitter in Manchester. The Olympics are also being used to support digital radio, with a dedicated station, Five Live Olympics Extra, launching on 25thJuly, and adverts for digital radio focussing heavily on Games coverage.

The Memorandum mentions Government funding of £21 million, with a clause allowing further funding when necessary. The Government has published a cost-benefit analysis of this funding (available to view here). Comments on this document can be sent to CBAConsultation@culture.gsi.gov.uk until Friday 31 July.

Tim says: ‘It’s good to see plenty of focus put on raising awareness and understanding of digital radio. The new printed guide to digital radio may help people who are confused about their radio listening options. One of the things WaveLength likes about digital radio is that it’s trying to extend choice in the way people can listen.

‘However, with DAB listening currently flat-lining after an original boost, it’s hard to see why – apart from commercial reasons – this form of digital listening is receiving so much attention, and so much funding. Fewer than 20% of radio listeners in the UK use DAB radios. A larger consistent increase is in people using the internet or internet-connected devices to receive digital radio – and as we know at WaveLength, many people also remain quite happy to continue listening to their FM radios.

‘With current penetration at just 20%, a switch date of 2013 is an unlikely goal. Penetration of 50% digital usage among radio users is required to trigger a switch. Lining the ducks up for swift action when this target is hit should not take precedence over encouraging uptake among all sectors of the community.

‘During the TV switch, WaveLength got involved with the Consumer Expert Group in order to protect our beneficiaries, and I’m proud of the group’s support of consumers during this time. Many WaveLength users welcomed the digital TV switch because it seemed to offer a genuinely greater range of choice; but appetite for digital radio is significantly lower. As well as the lower penetration of digital radio overall in comparison to digital TV, radio is disproportionately used by the elderly, who are often less able to deal with new costs and less willing to adapt to new equipment.

‘Because digital radio has a much smaller base of existing users, the Government needs to commit to a help scheme which embraces all vulnerable consumers. As outlined in the CEG’s latest report, access to this scheme should not be reliant on receipt of certain benefits, but should be available to all who need it.

‘My opinion is that elderly people in general, as well as those living with any physical, cognitive or mental impairments, should receive support free of charge when dealing with a switch of FM radio to DAB. Providing this support only to those who are in receipt of particular benefits or registrations will leave many consumers behind.  A switch to digital must also cater for those vulnerable users, such as homeless people and asylum seekers, who use transistor radios rather than TVs for their news and entertainment due to their portable nature and lack of a licence fee. Because the radio is free to air, many of the UK’s most vulnerable people rely on it.

‘In addition, I’m concerned about the low proportion of manufacturer sign-ups to the ‘tick’ scheme for verifiable digital-friendly radio equipment. If not enough manufacturers sign up to the ‘tick’ scheme, confusion over which equipment is capable of receiving DAB signal may well grow.

‘A switch to digital radio can bring millions of people better radio signal, and wider coverage of news and entertainment. However, a switch must not be rushed through for commercial considerations in a way which leaves the more vulnerable members of the UK behind. At WaveLength, our priority is access for all.

‘The Government is planning a Go Digital pilot later this year, converting a sample of households to digital radio to assess their experience. We would like a guarantee that this pilot will fully take into account the needs and preferences of elderly and rural radio users, and those living with physical, cognitive and mental illnesses.’